Supermarket watch Asia – a quarterly email bulletin for social movements about developments in food retail and distribution in Asia produced by GRAIN

#2 - April 2016

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The rapid growth of retail chains plays an important role in impeding people’s access to productive resources. It also reduces access to adequate and nutritious food by manipulating food and agriculture prices; making basic food products more expensive; flooding countries with cheap, processed food; and adversely affecting public health. The News brief section of this issue highlights these impacts, demonstrating how the spike in retail and fast food chains—over just one generation—has spread sugar, bad fats, synthetic additives, GMOs and pesticides across the region. Some retail chains argue that it costs more to bring fresh produce to market than processed and manufactured goods; we ask, why is this the case?

Across Asia, there is increased awareness of the threat posed by global retailers, as well as a growing movement to build strategies and alternatives to the retail chain model of food distribution. Faced with the growth of retail chains and regulations that limit their source of livelihood, many farmers and other small-scale food producers are resisting retail domination in alliance with consumers.
This edition of Supermarket watch Asia also highlights recent initiatives by farmers, traders and civil society organisations to strengthen community-based and public food systems and to assure the survival of small food producers and local markets. In Indonesia, the network of Papua indigenous women traders is raising its voice to demand the right to trade its local produce; in Thailand, efforts are underway to bridge the gap between small farmers and consumers; and in India, farmers and traders are uniting to prevent foreign investment from invading local food markets. Despite the challenges ahead, there is an emerging movement for self-determination in community-based food systems that brings together these frontline alternative approaches.

Across the region

The Mama Pasar movement in Merauke, Indonesia: claiming space for indigenous women small traders

There are numerous Papua indigenous women who travel daily from surrounding areas, bringing vegetables, fish and forest products to sell in the town of Merauke. But they face difficulties due to the other traders—mostly settlers from other islands or more established locals from the town—who do not wish to give them space to trade in the markets. In the rainy season their pop-up stalls are damaged and often flooded, and in the dry season they have to endure the intense heat because there is no roof and they are placed at the back end of the market. Consequently, the women attempt to sell in locations where they are not allowed, such as parking lots or nearby sheds.

In 2013, the Advocacy Group for Women (eL_AdPPer) and the Secretariat for Justice and Peace of Merauke’s archdiocese (SKP KAME) started to organise and advocate for these women. SKP KAME and eL-AdPPer established a strategic plan in order to enhance democracy for the women of Merauke. Together with the indigenous women traders they have implemented a number of activities since 2013, including: 1) capacity building, 2) networking, 3) organising focus group discussions in Wamanggu and Mopah markets, 5) establishing a community forum in solidarity with indigenous women traders, and 6) participating in a talk show on national radio and local television stations. The activities also involved local authorities, district market managers, academics and the media.
Through this organising process Mama Pasar identified several critical issues, such as: limited access to trading space and transportation; lack of access to small business loans; unequal price competition; high monthly fees; exclusion from the small traders groups; and marginalisation in market revitalisation processes.
The role of SKP KAME and el_AdPPer in this process is to listen and facilitate understanding of the issues; assist the Mama Pasar women in understanding their rights and the role of indigenous women in the community and in democracy; help establish civil society organisations (i.e. the Mama Pasar Association) in collaboration with Merauke local authorities; and push for regulations that protect Mama Pasar.
Local authorities have begun to acknowledge the issues that exist in the markets—though they are still not acting quickly to address the problems. The growing advocacy campaign has been key to pressuring local authorities and shifting public opinion regarding the rights of indigenous women to trade in the markets. To be sure, it hasn’t been an easy process. Community organisers have faced intimidation; they have been prohibited from gathering in the market; they were inaccurately branded as part of a separatist movement; and they have been followed by police.
Further work is needed to increase advocacy efforts and broaden the campaign to democratise market spaces and create regulations that protect the right of indigenous women to sustain themselves by selling their produce.
Beatrix Gebze

See also the social media campaign on twitter: #bangunpasarmamapapua

Mindful Markets Asia Forum: a social enterprise and consumer movement for systemic change

The Mindful Markets Asia Forum was initiated to build bridges between small-scale family farmers and consumers. The theme of this year’s forum emphasizes change through the work of social enterprises and consumer movements. As consumers become more and more interested in connecting with family farmers, they have the potential to promote a shift towards sustainable agriculture. In addition, organic markets are growing because of increasing demand. Green shops play an important role in supporting producers, in distributing chemical-free products in local areas and in providing access to healthy food.

Last year’s successful Mindful Markets Asia Forum was held at Srinakharinwirot University in Bangkok, Thailand. The third annual forum will be held on from 30 August to 1 September 2016, again in Bangkok. The event’s objective is to expand the concept of “mindful markets” as an alternative path to achieving organics for all. This arises from a shared concern that everyone should have access to good food, at a fair price, which doesn’t degrade the environment. Moreover, the forum aims to increase public awareness of consumer-supported agriculture models, green business management and consumer movements. The forum will focus on exchanging experiences and ideas for building a progressive organic and fair food movement.
For more information about the forum programme, contact:
Ampika Anunta
Mindful Market Asia Forum

Farmers and traders in India oppose foreign investment in local food

The India FDI Watch Campaign, along with the Bhartiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal (Federation of All India Traders and Industries), the Federation of Associations of Maharastra, the Hawkers Federation, Janpahal and various other groups, opposed the union budget 2016-17 proposal to allow 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the marketing of food produced and manufactured in India.
Sri Shyam Bihari Mishra, President of the Bhartiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal (BUVM), said, “If the government is serious about stopping wastage of food and empowering farmers it should work on a sustainable model of distribution of food considering factors of demand and supply. It does not make sense to allow supermarkets, which are known for wastage of food throughout their supply chain operation and squeezing farmers.”

Dharmendra Kumar, India FDI Watch Campaign Director, added, “the budgetary announcement raises concerns over livelihood, nutrition, food safety, local economies and the environment… Many processed foods are high in added sugar, sodium, saturated fats or trans fats and contain little dietary fibre and can contribute to foodborne illness outbreaks… The government of India should not deregulate the farm and retail sectors in a rushed manner until sufficient measures are put in place that will protect livelihoods of farmers and small traders.”

Read the full press release
Dharmendra Kumar
India FDI Watch
Tel: +91-9871179084

News brief

Colin Todhunter, The Ecologist
In this article, The Ecologist highlights the changes in India's food system, which has been inundated with sugar, bad fats, synthetic additives, GMOs and pesticides under the country's neoliberal “great leap forwards”. This has resulted in a surge in obesity, diabetes and cancer while the country paradoxically home to over 40% of the global underweight population.
Coles defends selling vegetables at three times the wholesale price

David Ellery, The Canberra Times
One of Australia's leading supermarket chain, Coles has admitted charging consumers up to three times its wholesale price for many popular fruit and vegetable lines. Coles claims it costs more to bring fresh produce to market than processed and manufactured goods due to a number of factors including seasonality, customer demand and periodic specials.
McDonald’s steps up expansion in Asia

Lindsay Whipp, Financial Times

McDonald’s plans to open more than 1,500 restaurants in China and Korea with local partners over the next five years, as it refocuses on expansion in the world’s second-biggest economy after a food safety scare there in 2014 hit sales. Once the outlets are opened, the fast-food chain would have more than 4,300 restaurants across the two countries, 54 per cent more than it has now. 

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